Lee of absence shows how Coisty must make experience top priority

ALLY McCoist needs to add experienced players to his squad to bolster his bid to return Rangers to the top of the Scottish game.

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Bobby Russell reckons Lee McCulloch has been missed
Bobby Russell reckons Lee McCulloch has been missed

That was the verdict today of Gers great Bobby Russell today as he looked back on his old club's 1-1 draw with Stirling Albion on Tuesday night.

Russell was working at the Irn-Bru Third Division match at Forthbank in midweek in a new role as a co-commentator for Rangers TV.

The former midfielder now spends much of his time in Ontario in Canada where he is a coach with the Aurora Stingers Youth Soccer Club.

And the Hall of Fame member was stunned at just how fresh-faced the team McCoist fielded in Stirling was.

Murray Park graduates like Chris Hegarty, Kyle Hutton, Andy Little, Barrie McKay and Kal Naismith were all involved for the league leaders.

But Russell was not greatly surprised as an impressive eight-game winning run on the road in the league came to an end – given the average age of the side.

"I haven't seen much of Rangers this season," he admitted. "I go over to Canada for six months of the year so I have not been to that many matches. But I've been to a few.

"What struck me as the team walked out on the park for the warm-up before kick-off is how young they all were. They are incredibly young.

"When they are missing Lee McCulloch, a hugely experienced player and a real leader, out of the team then I think they are always going to struggle.

"There aren't any leaders in the team in his absence. Some of the players are clearly trying to fill that role. But for me, McCulloch is the man who keeps them together."

Russell added: "They got an early goal against Stirling on Tuesday night and I felt that should have settled them. They should have been two or three goals up in the first half.

"Stirling, though, always posed a threat at set-pieces and when they scored from one early in the first half they were lifted and Rangers were deflated."

McCoist, who can bring in free agents to Rangers in the summer despite a signing ban, afterwards admitted he is seeking to strengthen in central defence.

Russell, a former Under-17 coach at the Glasgow club, believes his old team-mate has to make signing older players his priority in the close season.

He stated: "Without a doubt, there are not enough experienced professionals in this Rangers team at the moment.

"When I first broke into the Rangers team many moons ago, I was around 19 and I was the youngest player in the side.

"But I was playing alongside guys who were seasoned professionals, the likes of John Greig, Sandy Jardine, Alex MacDonald and Tommy McLean.

"They made it easier for me. They guided me through my first games for the club.

"These kids don't really have anybody like that to help them at the moment.

"In the long run it is going to be good for them. It is an education for them just now. It will toughen them up.

"But playing away from home can be difficult."

Yet, Russell was at pains to point out that he has been greatly impressed with many of the kids who have made the breakthrough in the 2012/13 season.

He remarked: "I think they are missing the boy Lewis McLeod as well. He gives them that wee bit of quality in an important area.

"I thought Kal Naismith did really well the other evening wide on the right of midfield. He has got a physical presence about him and is very skilful.

"In the commentary, I said the young players have to show greater consistency over a longer period of time. They only did it in fits and starts the other evening.

"That will come though. Of course it will. This is a learning curve for them playing in this division."

Russell, still remembered fondly by Rangers fans as a creative and cultured player, also believes the central midfield partnership of Ian Black and Kyle Hutton deserves time.

He added: "I have a great deal of time for Ian Black. He is a very good player. And I know Kyle Hutton from working with him in the past.

"They just looked a wee bit out of sorts the other night. Neither man imposed himself on the game. They took too many touches on the ball for me.

"Of course, when you go two or three goals up then you can start showing what you can really do in that area.

"When there is tension in there, as there was after Albion scored, it became a bit harder for Rangers.

"But I think they complement each other. They are not similar in stature. Kyle is a big strong boy, Black is quite diminutive and aggressive.

"This is a difficult time for Rangers, but they will win the title, and hopefully promotion, this season and will be better as individuals and a unit for the experience."


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